When news channels repeatedly broadcast the news of PPP leader Sharmila Faruqi having found her “jeewan saathi” last week, I immediately rang her up to get an up close and personal account of how it all happened.
Sharmila’s baat pakki ceremony had already taken place on Sunday evening, so when I landed up at her residence on Tuesday afternoon, the marigolds and gladiolas from the event were still sprinkled across the lawn. At the entrance, I was greeted by the lovebirds themselves.
“Meet the groom-to-be,” Sharmila said brightly, as she gazed lovingly at her fiancé, 30-year-old Hashaam Riaz Sheikh. While Sharmila wore a simple shalwar kameez, Sheikh looked more formal in a crisp white shalwar kameez with a waistcoat, explaining that he was headed to the airport. The two murmured softly to each other as we went inside the house; the chemistry between them was electric. They sat close together and even exchanged a quick peck. They also shared that they have the mutual nickname ‘Beezw’ for each other.
“She is the love of my life,” Sheikh confessed, but then corrected himself. “The president is the first love of my life! Sharmila is the second and she has to compromise on that,” he laughed, adding that he has been trying to make her “a little more romantic”.
Sheikh explained that he used to be an investment banker on Wall Street, but that he currently lives in Islamabad and works as an adviser to President Asif Ali Zardari. The two met for the first time at a cabinet meeting in October 2010. Two months later, Sharmila was given a Human Rights Award by the president for which she had to fly out to Islamabad, and the two met again. They decided to go out for dinner, and even recalled how they had played Rahat Fateh Ali Khan’s Main Tenu Samjhawan Ki in the car on their way to dinner and back. The die-hard Rahat fans are so addicted to the song, they invited Rahat to their baat pakki ceremony and requested that he sing it three times.
“What makes us click is that we are so alike,” said Sharmila. “Our families suffered a lot in the times of Nawaz Sharif and Musharraf,” she continued. “That’s how we relate to and understand each other.”
Sharmila is an only child and Hashaam has three other siblings, but she says that he understands the feeling of being alone as he lived in the US for nine years. “He loves me for who I am — my virtues as well as my vices,” she said, as Sheikh left the house to catch his flight. “In the two-and-a-half years that I have known him, Hashaam sahab has stood by me like a solid rock.” She said that he doesn’t refuse her anything, and loves her even if she makes a mistake. “He is an amazing person at heart. For Valentine’s Day, he bought me a red outfit, chocolates and balloons,” she said with a smile, adding that he flew out to Dubai last year when she was there. “I believe that one day, he will buy me the whole world!”
At her event on Sunday, Sharmila wore a heavily embellished black outfit by SanaSafinaz while the groom chose a black sherwani by Deepak Perwani. She admits that she has become brand conscious after meeting Sheikh. “I carry a Louis Vuitton bag because of him as he is a totally ‘branded guy’ — it’s Armani, Gucci, Hermes or Louis Vuitton for him,” she smiled, adding that he has changed her wardrobe entirely. “I could be dressed up casually in jeans but Hashaam sahab is always dressed to kill!”
She goes back to showering him with praise, saying “I can’t seem to find any faults in him — he is such a loving and amazing person. Not many people impress me — I couldn’t have fallen in love with anyone else but him.”
When asked about the stories surrounding her when she was single, she said she “didn’t bother with them”, adding “One trick is to not respond to these mindless rumours — they eventually subside and that’s how I have kept my sanity intact.”
With Hashaam in Islamabad and Sharmila in Karachi, I wondered where they would eventually settle down. Sharmila said that has not yet been decided. “It all depends on where politics takes us — I take things as they come,” she said. As far as the upcoming elections are concerned, she said she does want to participate in them but that the decision ultimately depends on the PPP. “My political life depends on them and they decide for me but with my personal life, I decide for myself,” she said with a smile.
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2013.
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